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Here are my thoughts on the candidates’ performances in last night’s debate in New Hampshire:

Rudy Giuliani repeatedly underscores his history of public service, pointing out that he knows law enforcement and has been a successful chief executive.  Thank goodness he didn’t dwell on 9/11.  Rudy is a fantastic public speaker, but these debates aren’t great for him because he isn’t good extemporaneously.

Mike Huckabee starts out shaky, the words aren’t coming as easily as they usually do.  Makes points by citing the Declaration of Independence as the foundation of our country and our freedoms.  “Anytime you penalize productivity, it’s counterintuitive to an economy.”  Not exactly a revelation, but try to say it three times fast.  Why should we be energy independent?  Because “every time we swipe a credit card at a gas pump…” we’re supporting foreign terrorists.

John McCain put a dent in Romney by telling him “You can spend your entire fortune on attack ads, that won’t make your attacks true.”  Did well when asked for the philosophical underpinnings that will guide how he governs, recalling the oath he took when he arrived at the Naval Academy at age 17.  This answer accomplishes two things: first, it reminds people of his military service.  Secondly, it points out that almost his entire adult life has been spent as a public servant.  There are questions about McCain’s age, but tonight he seems very vital and it’s easy to forget he’s in his 70s.

Ron Paul may be right about returning to the gold standard – I’m no economist, but it doesn’t sound practical to me.  Paul says he thinks that young people support him because they’re excited about “sensible monetary policy.”  Hmmm.  He has passion, but he lacks the ability to express himself effectively.  And he still quacks.

Mitt Romney was more articulate in spurts, but also combative and obnoxious for extended periods.  Strangely, Romney at one point objected pointedly to criticism of pharmaceutical companies, “don’t make them the bad guys.”  This from a guy worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  Made sour faces, even looked pretty pissed off at McCain and Huckabee.  It was bad form and in doing so he gave away the gains he was making.

Fred Thompson scores with his candid rejection of a “windfall tax” on oil companies.  He vociferously supports diversity in our energy sources, given the international political climate it’s smart to support this position as loudly as possible.  Thompson’s got to shake the “lazy” label, and did a much better job of looking alive tonight.  I think he helped himself more than any other candidate.

Exchange of the night:

Romney: “Don’t try to characterize my position…”

Huckabee: “Which one?”

(audience laughs as Romney glowers)

Big Winner:

Fred Thompson

Finishing order:

Fred Thompson

John McCain

Mike Huckabee

Mitt Romney

Rudy Giuliani

Ron Paul


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